In an exclusive interview, Bicycling chatted to the victim of the Red Hartebees tackle, the footage of which has become a global internet sensation. - By Nic Lamond
On Sunday 9 October 2011, Evan van der Spuy woke up, lubed his trusty Scott Scale mountain bike and fronted the start line of the Time Freight MTB Express Race at Albert Falls Dam in KZN. 15km later he was lying on his back wondering what had hit him…
Evan’s a decent rider. He’s 17, he calls the South Coast his home, he rides for the accomplished Team Jeep and is an age group South African XC series champion. He was lying in second place in Sunday’s 35km race, enjoying some open sweeping singletrack… when a Red Hartebees tried to hurdle him at full bore.
The result is a rare and spectacular scene captured on video for posterity. You see, Evan’s Team Jeep teammate Travis Walker had a handle-bar-mounted GoPro camera and caught the whole thing on camera. When I first looked at it, via a tweet from race organiser Max Cluer late on Monday afternoon, I was just one of 350 people who’d seen the footage. Today is Wednesday and, at last check, the YouTube clip of the incredible Red Hartebees headbutt had close on 5 million views.
Evan’s a funny guy. He’s already calling himself ‘Buck van der Spuy’, and many of the twitter comments have been preceded by a ‘BuckNorris’ hashtag. He’s also a lucky man. Apart from wearing a neck brace since Sunday “just as a precaution”, Evan has nothing to show for the impact which shattered his Specialized Prevail helmet, and left him with a mild concussion and minor whiplash. “I woke up a bit stiff this morning,” he admitted. “But otherwise I feel fine. There are no scars, not even scratches.”
So exactly what does the young Buck remember of the incident? “My last recollection is of the first buck running across the path and then seeing the second buck, the one that hit me… being closer than normal.” Well that’s an understatement.
I quizzed him on whether he saw his life flash before him as the Hartebees loomed large on to his right-hand side, or whether he knew he was in trouble at all, but his response was calm and clear: “I think it was all a little too fast at the time, so I don’t remember being scared.” He did, however, confess to finding the ambulance trip “quite scary”.
Buck’s very public crash and miraculous escape without serious injury has made him the talking point of South City Christian College in Ramsgate, Kwa-Zulu Natal. Actually it’s made him the brunt of endless good-natured jokes at his school, as well as with his Team Jeep teammates. “After they found out I was alright we have had a lot of fun together. There have been lots of jokes… but also team support and helping with all the media attention.”
And there has been plenty of it! According to Max Cluer, in two short days Buck has been contacted by Good Morning America, ESPN, CNN, BBC, Sky News, as well as South African TV and radio networks and local papers. Buck, however, seems to be taking it in his stride: “I’m overwhelmed at how big and how far this has travelled in one day! It is truly remarkable and unexpected, I don’t think it has hit me yet – excuse the pun.”
And the most important question of them all: how is the bike? Well, Buck tweeted late on Tuesday evening: “I finally got to look at my bike today, and to everyone that was wondering, it doesn’t have a scratch and is @Powasol clean! Got to love it!”
As a parting shot I suggested the young talent might prefer another call from me in the future to ask him about his latest race victory rather than another high tackle from Mother Nature. To which he responded, “Ja, being known for a [race] result will be much more pleasing… and less painful.”